Kono kasa wa kekkan ga arimasu

As the “he” part of the blog team, back in April, I decided to invest in a new kasa (umbrella) in anticipation of the upcoming rainy season. I made the trek to Tokyo Hands, a kind of Japanese Home Depot-on-steroids with a store in Shibuya. After searching the myriad of options, I selected a fine Tokyu Hands windproof umbrella, for the not insignificant cost of 4200 yen (about $38).IMG_2778[1]

I used said kasa a couple of times in some very mild rain and it seemed to perform admirably. But lo and behold, there turned out to be a broken rib, making my robust windproof kasa much less functional.

Returning defective merchandise is never fun, even when you know the language. When you have an infantile grasp of conversation, it’s even more intimidating. So with low expectations and high anxiety, today my wife and I made the trek to Tokyu Hands to see what could be done.

Our first step was the “information” counter. Eigo ga wakarimasu ka? Sukoshi – the person spoke about as much English as I do Japanese. ┬áNot to fear, my wife was ready. “Kono kasa wa kekkan ga arimasu,” she confidently told the person – this umbrella is defective. Apparently that was enough, and we were directed to the umbrella department.

A short walk later, we again found the cheerful salespeople in the umbrella department. After the “kono kasa wa kekkan” phrase, I produced the broken bumbershoot and my sales receipt. The sales person looked at the broken rib, and said some apologetic sounding words. A few minutes later, he produced a new umbrella for me with a smile.

I’m not sure what the words are for “excellent customer service” in Japanese. But it was certainly demonstrated today at Tokyu Hands — a store I’m sure I’ll be returning to in the future.

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Of hydrangeas and other matters…

Beautiful flowers, historic Shinto shrines, delicious street food, cold beer, and lots and lots of people. It’s the beginning of matsuri (festival) season in Japan, and that means many opportunities to experience Japanese culture.

Today, we visited the Bunkyo Ajisai Matsuri 2017, a festival featuring Ajisai (hydrangeas) in full bloom. A short ride on the Mita line to Hakusan station, it’s then a short walk to Hakusan Shrine. An important shrine built in the 8th century as a place to pray for a remedy for smallpox, today there are some 3,000 Ajisai plants in an array of colors.

This being our first visit, we wandered into the shrine area, and took a left turn to see the street food displays. Takoyaki, yakitori, and other food adds wonderful aromas to walk through.

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Yakitori – grilled chicken on a stick – is a popular street food in Tokyo

We soon walked out of the Hakusan Shrine area and wandered to the Koishikawa Botanical Garden. Like most Tokyo gardens, this one charges admission — 400 yen per person. But it is a large garden, with an amazing variety of plants and trees. We saw traditional Japanese water gardens, and specimen plants from around the world, including Sequoyah trees and tulip poplars from the United States. It’s a beautiful and relaxing place.

After some time in the garden, we exited through a Japanese residential area. Small houses and apartments, narrow streets, no yards…just a quiet place to live. Most houses have container gardens around the front doors, with flowers and plants. Very different from what neighborhoods we are familiar with in the US.

We made our way slowly back to the main road, and back to Hakusan Shrine. Found another area of beautiful hydrangeas that we missed earlier. So many people taking pictures and just enjoying the nice spring weather.

After making our way to the subway station, we made a brief stop at Hibiya Park. Springtime Oktoberfest/Beer Garden is in full swing there, with many examples of good German beer. But we decided to call it a day and head for home. All in all, a nice first weekend of the matsuri season in Tokyo.P1040578

Small acts of kindness

I recently had an opportunity for my second business trip to Mumbai, India. My return flight was on All Nippon Airways – ANA – an overnight flight from Mumbai to Tokyo.

The Japanese flight crews on these flights are always good, but this one seemed even more cheerful, more attentive than most. I watched as they scurried around the cabin, taking care of passenger needs and pushing the heavy food and beverage carts down the aisles. Looked like a lot of hard work, and they were doing it efficiently and with great care.

When the flight attendant brought me my meal, I made an offhand comment, saying that I thought she was doing a really good job. It was just an observation of fact, and I didn’t really think anything about it.

Later in the flight, the flight attendant gave me a nice note, thanking me for recognizing her and saying how much it meant to her. I was surprised and pleased that such a simple gesture meant something to her. It all goes to prove that acts of kindness – even very small ones – can make a difference.

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